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Student Profile: Maliya Petties (‘23)

Maliya Petties
Student Profile: Maliya Petties ('23) 

As a second-year evening student, Maliya Petties has excelled both academically and professionally, and she embodies some of the DePaul Law community's most remarkable qualities of hard work, excellence and perseverance. Professor Roberta Kwall says of her, "When I first learned about Maliya's road to law school, I was so impressed with her dedication and commitment to professional achievement.  Her work ethic is one of the strongest I have seen, and even before walking through DePaul's doors, she had accomplished so very much.  I cannot wait to see where the next steps of her journey will take her, but I have no doubt she will be hugely successful at whatever she chooses to do."

Q.    What did you do before going to law school?

Prior to law school, I worked for a commercial finance company. We offered “factoring," which involved purchasing accounts receivables from businesses and giving them a cash flow to continue working and paying their employees. I started there when I was 18 years old, fresh out of high school and having my first child. I needed to take care of my family, and this job allowed me to do that. I stayed there for 22 years and earned my Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies from South Suburban College and my Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management and Leadership from North Park University. I left the company to become a paralegal, which I did for approximately a year-and-a-half before taking the LSAT and applying to law school.

Q.    What inspired you to go to law school?

I was inspired to go to law school simply because I wanted to make a change in the lives of others, and what better way to do so than through the law? I also love the way the law challenges the way you think. A simple sentence can mean many different things to many different people, and to be part of the discourse of analyzing and debating something that can change the course of history is exhilarating.

Q.    Why did you choose DePaul?

I chose DePaul because it felt like home.  I attended a couple of admitted student events and had the opportunity to speak with faculty, as well as current and former students. The faculty seemed genuinely interested in my concerns and helped me gauge what to expect. Their engagement in the admission process allowed me to get a glimpse of the type of instruction I would be getting and from whom I would be getting it.

Finally, the students were especially helpful. They gave an honest evaluation, both good and bad, of the experiences and education at DePaul. They were also very welcoming. I would receive follow up calls and messages from people I just met asking how I was doing, seeing if I had questions, and letting me know the best parking garages to use. Simple things like that helped form my decision. I knew that law school would be a sacrifice for me and my family, and if I was going to make that sacrifice, it had to be somewhere where I felt comfortable, wanted and seen.

Q.    As a working mother going to law school, what are some of the biggest challenges you've faced and how have you overcome them?

Like many other students, it's managing time and finding that work/life/school balance. Working a nine-to-five job Monday through Friday and starting class at 5:50 p.m. Monday through Thursday doesn't leave much time for anything! Prior to committing to law school, I had a talk with my husband and children to let them know what my plans were and what it would look like. I even brought my husband to an admitted student event so that he could see what it would be like and ask questions of his own. The decision was one that we both had to agree on, because I couldn't do it alone. I have been blessed that my husband is my biggest supporter and picks up my slack. My children also are very supportive and proud to see me working towards a goal, in spite of what some may see as obstacles.

We still try to take Fridays as family night. We watch movies, have dinner or sometimes do nothing at all, but even if it's nothing, we are doing it together. We also attend church together on Sunday mornings. In addition, I do a lot of my studying and homework after everyone else is sleeping, so that I am not missing out on too much.

Challenges will present themselves in anything you do; I have been blessed not to have to face my challenges alone. It has been with much prayer and a very supportive family by my side that I have been able to overcome them.

Q.    How has COVID impacted your work/school/family life?

COVID-19 has definitely changed life for everyone! I think it has forced everyone to really appreciate the simple things in life.

I started a new job at a downtown firm in March of this year, which meant I left my house at 6:30 a.m. to drop my son off at school and then catch a train to make it to work by 8:30.  Sometimes, I didn't make it home until 10:00 p.m. I WAS DRAINED! Around two weeks later, we received the stay-at-home order, which meant I didn't have to leave home at all. I was able to work from home and attend classes online.

This came with advantages and disadvantages. Working and attending classes from home meant I saw much more of my family, which is obviously the biggest advantage. However, I was challenged in learning a new job from home, helping my children navigate through their schooling, dealing with the fear of contracting this deadly disease, and also trying to manage my own classes.

Fast forward seven months, I enjoy working from home but miss the in-person classes. There's nothing like the vibe you get from sitting in a classroom feeding off your classmates and professors. However, my family gets to spend more time together, and I am not missing some of their formative changes and growth.

Q.    What do you hope to do after finishing law school?

I hope to take a vacation!! I am still undecided about what area of law I would like to practice, but I am leaning towards family law. I think that I am compassionate enough to make what could be a very difficult time more manageable, but I am also ready to fight should it come to that. I would also love to mentor other women through law school and life in general.

Q.    What advice do you have for aspiring and current law students?

My primary advice would be to first trust and believe in yourself. Law school is stressful and has a way of making you doubt some of your decisions and question whether you belong. If obtaining your JD, whether you go on to practice law or not, is something that you want, DO IT!  Secondly, make this journey your own. Don't make the mistake of comparing the path others took to get here or what they are doing, because it is different for everyone. You have to be intentional in what you want and do what's best for you to attain it. Lastly, while you are on this journey, don't forget to take the time to enjoy the scenery!